Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Struggling to Comprehend

I have been trying to figure out how to write about the abject poverty that is so pervasive in the Fingerlakes region. During the summer months, everything screams tourism, wineries, camping, and never ending waves of verdant fields.

It is during the winter months that the rotting bones of this area show through the snow. Having lived in many different parts of the country, rural and urban alike... I feel like I am starting to ask different questions about the nature of poverty. Perhaps more importantly, I am starting to wonder about the future of poverty and wealth in America. For now, I plan on exploring this topic more through my images and my blog. I welcome discussion and comments.


  1. Horrible. Upstate NY has some very down and out and depressing locations. We lived in New Hampshire for most of my adult life, and in some ways it is the exact same country landscape of forest and hills etc. BUT it is a VERY wealthy state. It is rare you see things like the mess in your photo. I wonder if some residents here are in a kind of mental quicksand, stuck and sinking and trapped and not sure how to escape.

    1. I think you hit the nail on the head, Gary. I think the local depression set in after this area failed to recover after WWII, and things only worsened with the loss of the agricultural base and the industrial base. Adding to the welfare state was the idea that home ownership was a good thing... so folks sold off farms which paved the way for trailer parks and double-wides that wont last 30 years. I think this long-term photo project has some serious potential. We'll see. Thanks for chiming in, Gary!

  2. the rich get richer, and the poor shop at Walmart

    see: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2012/jul/31/bernie-s/sanders-says-walmart-heirs-own-more-wealth-bottom-/

  3. Your point about home ownership is right on too. It can be a trap for some. There was an article last year in the NYTimes about this very subject. People, for example, found themselves trapped in Detroit in worsening neighborhoods and worse job prospects BUT all their money was tied up in their house, which they could not sell. Ditto upstate NY! You have an old house in bad condition you can't sell and you stay and...don't really live a good life. The article also mentioned that in NY City many more people rent instead, which gives a job seeker tremendous flexibility to move to better work, which can be VERY valuable. Ithaca is an unusual community, the only bright spot around. There is a lot to like in Binghamton, and even more so in Syracuse, which is changing because smart young people realize that Brooklyn can be very expensive for artists, etc, but that Syracuse is dead cheap AND Syracuse U, bless them, is working VERY hard to spend money and create an arts scene there, which is making it a whole different place. I am sure you have noticed in your years as a potter, driving to clayscapes for clay, watching galleries etc pop up. SO, what does that mean for the rest of upstate? Much of it will continue to be abandoned, because Yoko Ono can't buy up ALL the land.... (you may know that she and others have done a lot of good in the Catskills).